Friday, July 31, 2009

Me vs. Movies

I have blogged many, many times about my personal love-hate veering towards hate-hate relationship with movies. I grew up watching two genres of movies: classic black and white and color pre-1970 movies and horrible situation comedies from the 1980’s, both of which I worshipped with equal fervor. I probably thought the best movies on the earth when I was a kid where something like Some Like It Hot, the original Cape Fear, To Kill a Mockingbird followed by The Money Pit, Overboard, Short Circuit 2, Ghostbusters 2 (I had a thing for sequels, apparently) and Labyrinth. I have since discovered that my taste in movies came from the fact that my mom essentially stopped watching movies in 1970 and I liked anything my mom liked and, more importantly, we were really poor and couldn’t afford to go to the movies so my access to movies was limited to what local channels played on Sunday afternoons. Hence why I can still recite the entirety of Blind Date, the 1987 “comedy” starring Kim Basinger and Bruce Willis. Yeah, the whole thing. It’s kind of like when you see current footage of people protesting on the streets of some impoverished African nation but one of the kids is wearing a brand new Space Jam t-shirt.

When I watched I Love the 90’s on VH1, I was shocked to realize that I apparently was not alive in the 1990’s, as I knew NOTHING about anything they were talking about. But then when I watched I Love the 80’s, I realized that I had somehow existed in that decade. Which lead me to realize that the 1990’s were my 1980’s. Apparently it’s possible to be so poor that you can miss an entire decade. Let me explain: Every movie discussed in I Love the 80’s eventually became a staple of basic cable or local stations by the 1990’s. So while I didn’t see those movies in their original decade of origin, I would end up seeing them years later on TV and mentally associating them with the 90’s. So as kids raved about something called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was probably extolling the humorous nuances of Splash. I think maybe this was the foundation of me being so grumpy about movies.

Now I’m an adult and can occasionally scrape together enough pennies and coupons to see movies in the theater. And when I do, it is almost always a letdown. I wasn’t always this way. I worked at the Magnolia when I was 22 and we would get to see all the movies before they premiered at the tech screenings. Usually just a half dozen or so (more often than not, only two or three of us) employees watching whatever was about to come out. And I saw a lot of movies that were either not that bad or fairly good. My friend TJ and I saw 28 Days Later almost a dozen times, I think. I even took my friend Salim and his 9 months pregnant wife to see 28 Days Later, hoping the entire time that the baby would at least wait until the alternate ending after the credits if he decided to make his entrance that night. In short, movies used to be fun to me. Or at least not the ass-beating that they have become.

Then came Juno. Really. I blame it all on one movie. One movie that turned my movie-enjoyment tide. I think I not only hated the movie so much that my friend Chad had to hold my arm so I didn’t leave the theater before the end but I also saw it as a new subgenre that would spawn a million imitations. Twee, self-congratulatory and ultimately a celluloid version of the website My hatred of Juno and Diablo Cody is so well-known that two friends of mine who do not know each other have, completely independently of each other, taken to teasing me with insinuations that I love the movie Juno and that I revere Diablo Cody. It’s hilarious (eye roll).

I also saw The Hangover recently, and though time has dulled my rapier-sharp hatred for the movie, I still can’t say that I enjoyed it. And looking back on it now, I realize that I went into each movie really wanting to like them. I saw Juno the night it opened and saw The Hangover on opening weekend as well, which is extremely rare for me. Were my expectations set so high that no movie would ever reach the bar? Doubtful since I basically expected The Hangover to be two hours of a couple of dudes recounting stories of a rough night of drinking. But maybe all this is a good thing. Maybe the fact that I have severely disliked most of the movies I have seen recently has lowered my expectations and enthusiasm to a reasonable level finally. In fact, take this weekend’s movie outing that my friends and I will be embarking on.

They are going to go see 500 Days of Summer. I will go see Funny People. For some reason, Funny People could literally be two and half hours of Judd Apatow taking a crap into his own hand and then describing it while the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel plays in an endless loop in the background and I will probably still like it. I am an unabashed Judd Apatow enthusiast and I have seen a few specials featuring a lot of the stand-up clips used in the film, 98% of which were really amusing. Maybe I’m setting myself up for failure once again but I somehow doubt it. What I don’t doubt is how much I don’t want to see 500 Days of Summer. You see, my whole “getting burned by seeing cloying, twee or overhyped movies” armor is up on this one. A few years ago, if you told me there was an indie film about a girl who really likes The Smiths, I probably wouldn’t have immediately clenched my fists in rage. I might have even thought, “Hey, I love the Smiths more than any other band on earth too! Maybe I will go see that!”

But no more. I see the words “indie romantic comedy” and I get queasy. I read this:

Tom, the boy, still believes, even in this cynical modern world, in the notion of a transforming, cosmically destined, lightning-strikes-once kind of love. Summer, the girl, doesn’t. Not at all. But that doesn’t stop Tom from going after her, again and again, like a modern Don Quixote, with all his might and courage. Suddenly, Tom is in love not just with a lovely, witty, intelligent woman – not that he minds any of that -- but with the very idea of Summer, the very idea of a love that still has the power to shock the heart and stop the world.

And I get this eye twitch followed by a rumbling in my lower intestines. I haven’t seen 500 Days of Summer yet. It could be great, it could be ok. But for now, I would like to refer to it as Garden State 2: When Earnest Indie Rom Coms Attack. Then again, in ten years when it is showing on Channel 33 on a slow and lazy Saturday afternoon, I might watch it and realize that it’s a pretty good, solid little film. Kind of like I did with Mannequin back in 1991.


Anonymous said...

the protagonist of '500 days of summer' sounds an awful lot like a stalker. i'm still waiting for a restraining order to figure prominently in a movie of this sort. i'm not holding my breath though.

Grandpa Walton said...

"Twee", eh?

Does the very use of such a term doom the author to entanglement within the righteous ravages of her own criticism? ;-)

Goodnight, Amanda

diahh said...

I can't believe i finally found a kindred soul who likes The Money Pit, which just happens to be one of the funniest movies of the 80's.

Unfortunately, you ruined it all by declaring your dislike of The Hangover, which just happens to be one of the funniest movies of the double oughts. A naked Asian dude randomly jumping out of a trunk and kickin' ass? Comedy gold.

Josh Campbell said...

don't see 500 Days. It BLOWS. I am a fan of Joseph Gordon Leavitt's arthouse/indie film work, but this was his worst film since angels in the outfield. The only good part of the film is a few creative editing transitions between scenes. 15 minutes into the movie i just wanted everyone's flesh to melt so they could realize my suffering. BALLS! Everyone involved with the making of that movie can go munch a taint. I getting pissed just thinking about it.


mm said...

I liked "500 Days of Summer". Yes, it's a little too aware of its own cuteness, but better than most.

"Funny People" is next on my list, and I'm really looking forward to it now.